Mary Mayhew, former commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, announced her candidacy for governor Tuesday morning on news radio stations WVOM and WGAN. Mayhew, who left DHHS on May 24, seeks to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the man who appointed her to head the state’s most complex and controversial unit of state government, in 2018.
During her time as commissioner, Mayhew spearheaded many of the welfare reforms enacted by the LePage administration, including a 60-month lifetime limit on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds and the reimplementation of asset tests under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. She also sparred with federal regulators over photo identification requirements on EBT cards and has supported TANF reforms included in LePage’s most recent biennial budget proposal.
LePage called Mayhew “the lightning rod for constant criticism from the media, liberal legislators and the special interests who wanted to protect and grow Maine’s entitlement programs,” amidst her efforts to curb government dependency and protect public funds for those truly in need, which she outlined as primary goals when named to the post in 2011.
After leaving the administration, LePage hailed Mayhew for her management in controlling department spending and lifting Mainers out of poverty through work opportunities rather than government assistance.
“She had the fortitude and the competence to finally bring accountability and fiscal responsibility to Maine’s formerly out-of-control welfare system,” LePage said in a written statement.
Mayhew, a former Democrat turned Republican during her time with LePage, is just one of a handful of Mainers, mostly Democrats, to throw their hat into the gubernatorial ring thus far. Adam Cote, Patrick Eisenhart and Betsy Sweet have already entered the Democratic primary race, and Maine’s State Treasurer Terry Hayes announced an independent bid in April.
A number of Republicans are expected to vie for the party nomination as election season approaches, including Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and former party chair Rick Bennett. Collins, who claims she is “seriously considering” a gubernatorial run, could wipe out the Republican field if she decides to relinquish control of her Senate seat.